Sacramento’s City Council moved to expand shelter access for the city’s homeless on Tuesday but held off on funding a proposed triage center that would serve as a one-stop shop for emergency services for the homeless.
After the council’s homeless subcommittee presented 21 policy and program options in April, council members seemed most interested in pursuing such a center, which could provide mental health counseling, medical assistance and place people in housing.
Councilman Jay Schenirer said Wednesday he and the council wanted to address the immediate need for more shelter beds while giving staff more time to work on the triage center, particularly on where it would be located. A city staff report laid out a preliminary implementation plan and cost estimate for several variations of a center. It estimated a 100-bed facility would cost about $1.5 million a year to operate, plus property and building costs.
Tuesday’s action will open more than 200 beds around the clock at the A Street Men’s Shelter and the Salvation Army’s The Lodge shelter on North B Street. Some of the spots are already available but only at specific times. The city estimates keeping the beds open will cost about $800,000 a year.
Keri Thomas, director of community and government relations at Sutter Health Sacramento, announced at the meeting that the hospital will match the city’s contribution of $400,000, which will be included in the 2016-17 budget.
Councilman Jeff Harris said at the meeting that moving forward with expanding shelter access is the sensible next step because triaging people won’t work if there’s nowhere for them to go afterward. One of the other options presented by the subcommittee was a “tiny home” village, which could potentially be linked with the triage center.
Local nonprofit First Step Communities is proposing a public-private partnership to create a community of tiny homes anchored by amenities like a medical clinic. The community could serve as the transitional step between the triage center and permanent housing.
The motion to move forward with the shelter beds, made by Schenirer, included direction for council members, the county and the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency to work on making more federal Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers available to people exiting homelessness.
The council also directed the city manager to assign a city staffer to explore launching a community paramedicine program within the Sacramento Fire Department to provide preventive care for homeless people who frequently call 911 with medical emergencies.
The idea of creating a tent city, explored in depth by the homeless subcommittee, was not discussed Tuesday. In February, the subcommittee and other high-ranking city officials traveled to Seattle to tour permitted tent cities, but officials have questioned the effectiveness of the model.
As city interest in the plan waned, attorney Mark Merin announced plans to seek a permit for a tent city on a parcel he owns at 12th and C streets. So far, that plan hasn’t moved forward.
Mayor Kevin Johnson established the homeless subcommittee in the midst of a weeks-long protest against the city’s anti-camping ordinance. Since the occupation ended, some protesters have become regulars at City Council meetings, repeating their calls for repeal during public comment.
Mayor Pro Tem Larry Carr adjourned Tuesday’s meeting during the public comment period with three speakers remaining due to disruptions in the audience.